Michael Palumbo's deep, dark secret is finally out.
Apparently, the Weber State University music professor hates handicapped people. And small children. Oh, and puppies and kitties and bunnies. And maybe even a rainbow or sunset or two.
This all came to light last month when Dr. Palumbo was involved in a bit of a fracas at a student symphony performance on campus. Depending upon whom you believe, Dr. Palumbo -- who was conducting the orchestra at the time -- either politely-yet-firmly asked an unruly concert patron to kindly take it outside, or he threw a temper tantrum of epic proportions.
It all started when someone in the audience made what Dr. Palumbo characterized as a high "howling" sound and he asked the person to leave. No one actually left, but things did quiet down long enough for him to begin conducting the symphony again. But then it happened a second time, and Dr. Palumbo stopped the music and insisted that the offending party leave the auditorium at once.
And that's when the Shostakovich hit the fan.
Someone yelled out that the noise was coming from a disabled child, for crying out loud. And then several audience members began calling Dr. Palumbo not-so-nice names.
At some point the handicapped child was removed, and after what I can only assume was a few tense moments, the concert finally resumed and all the guys in the audience went back to sleep.
The incident generated all manner of strong reactions in the community, mostly from people who fall into two distinct camps:
CAMP ONE, which consists of people who applaud Dr. P for his tough-on-symphonic-crime stance. These are hardliners who are sick and tired of rude people who don't know how to behave at a cultural event -- and no, a physical or mental handicap is no excuse.
CAMP TWO, which consists of people who think people in Camp One are politically incorrect bullies. These bleeding hearts would defend a handicapped person's actions under any circumstances -- even if those actions had involved spraying the audience with gunfire. ("What? Are you trying to tell disabled persons that they can't commit felonies?")
Of course, personally, I fall squarely into ...
CAMP THREE, which consists of people who, if we'd known there was going to be near-fisticuffs breaking out at the symphony, would have started attending such cultural events much, much earlier in life.
Are you kidding me? Someone howling at a classical concert? A conductor going all medieval on a handicapped child? Members of the audience shouting bad names at the conductor?
All this and Beethoven, too?
Every time I've ever been to the symphony, all I get is this crummy ol' music. No drama. No excitement. No fun. Just hours and hours of monotonous, tedious, mind-numbingly boring classical music.
Let's face it, a conductor outburst is exciting. Sorta like a non-fatal crash at a NASCAR race, or a fight at a hockey game, or an actual goal scored at a soccer match -- just one of those little bonus surprises that you weren't really expecting. (Well, except for the hockey fight.)
Now, I realize that purists will offer several perfectly good reasons as to why a concert hall should be as quiet as a tomb.
* Perfectly Good Reason No. 1 -- Playing classical music is extremely difficult. The musicians need complete silence, without any distractions, in order to present an acceptable performance.
Really? So when they say classical musicians are like highly trained athletes, they mean they're more like golfers or tennis players? The kind of "athletes" who require complete silence to do their thing?
I mean, if Tiger Woods is really THAT good, let's see him sink a 30-foot putt with fans in the gallery chanting "EL-in NORDE-gren!"
* Perfectly Good Reason No. 2 -- Listening to classical music is extremely difficult. The audience needs complete silence, without any distractions, in order to enjoy a performance.
Unlike at, say, an Aerosmith concert. Can you picture Steven Tyler turning to the crowd and screaming, "Look, I'll continue singing 'Walk This Way' when all of you hopelessly impaired people out there stop cheering and waving those annoying Bic lighters."
I'm not talking about rude people who talk through a concert, or fiddle with their cellphones. But I do think some spontaneous interaction between audience and artist is something the classical world could really use.
Listen, they hold these autism-friendly screenings at movie theaters all the time; maybe Dr. Palumbo could host a few Philistine-friendly concerts. Because I really think what the next WSU student orchestra performance needs is a good, old-fashioned mosh pit.
Handicapped-accessible, of course.
Thursday really blew. Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.